Many years ago, a friend of mine told me about a minister who made a pastoral call. He visited with a woman who lived in a house that was in a working-class neighborhood. The minister, himself, lived in a palatial house located high up in the hills offering a break taking view of the downtown city below. My friend told me that the minister greeted the lady who came to the door. No doubt, this person was expecting to hear good words from her pastor.
Instead, the minister asked this woman:
“Why do you live here? “
Clearly this clergyman did not get the memo regarding the intersection of privilege and gender and how they can have profound effects on the quality of ministry that is extended towards others.
My friend later observed that this woman remembered the minister’s question the rest of her life and thus did not attend that church very often.
Why is it that some clergy would be so challenged regarding basics of pastoral ministry and pastoral care and counseling? Over several decades there has been more and more conversation regarding the professionalization of ministry, sharpening skills about church administration, marketing and promotion of church programs.
There have been great advances made in improving theological education and training future clergy for a variety of different locations i.e. parish ministry and otherwise.
Yet, one can wonder where the emotional intelligence is sometimes regarding some ministers. I once heard a minister give a pastoral prayer and included was
“Thank God for panty hose. “
Again, what is one to think ? There have been scandalous stories documenting the rise of clergy sexual misconduct in congregations. Some denominations have addressed this with forthright and accountable policies while others have tendered to sweep any potential conflict or wrong doing under the rug.
What message does this send to the average church-goer?
Barbara Brown Taylor in her book “Leaving Church “has noted:
“As a general rule, I would say that human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God.” “I know plenty of people who find God most reliably in books, in buildings, and even in other people. “
I would heartily endorse that we need to remind ourselves that we find God in other people and in our relationships with them. When we lose that and only focus on preserving the institution of the Church for its own sake, we really miss out regarding the essence of ministry which is transformational.
Maybe we need to acknowledge that we need others to help us as mentors, accountability partners who can help to determine again how the “still small voice “is making its presence known and felt in our lives.
Maybe we need to remember that we are not God, but that God is alive is us transforming us and making us new.
May it be so.